Birthday Wishes to Two Musical Pioneers and Amistad Donors

The Amistad Research Center would like to send birthday wishes to two individuals whose musical careers are well documented in the Center’s archival collections — Harold Battiste and Camilla Williams.

Amistad's audiovisual holdings include oral history interviews,  musical performances, and other recordings in a variety of formats.

Harold Battiste

Composer, musician, educator, and record producer Harold R. Battiste celebrated his 79th birthday on October 28. In recognition of his accomplishments, the day was declared Harold Battiste Day by the City of New Orleans in 1998. As a jazz musician and record producer Mr. Battiste worked with such musicians as Sam Cooke, Sonny and Cher, Tom Waits, and Dr. John. He founded the first African American-owned record company, All for One (AFO) Records, in 1961. The label produced Barbara George’s hit record “I Know” as well as works by Ellis Marsalis, James Black, Melvin Lastie, Edward Blackwell, Alvin Batiste, and others. In 1989, Mr. Battiste joined Ellis Marsalis as part of the Jazz Studies faculty at the University of New Orleans.

Camilla Williams in the title role for Madama Butterfly.

Camilla Williams in the title role for Madama Butterfly.

Camilla Williams, a lyric soprano, has been credited with being the first African American female to hold a regular position with a leading United States opera company. Williams’ accolades are as follows: two-time winner of the Marian Anderson Award; prominent exponent of the title role in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and protégé of the creator or the role, Geraldine Farrar; “Bess” in the first complete phonographic recording of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess; performer of the title role in the Vienna premiere of Menotti’s Saint of Bleeker Street; recitalist; cultural ambassadress for the U.S. State Department; and college teacher of voice. Ms. Williams celebrated her 91st birthday on October 18.Camilla Williams, a lyric soprano, has been credited with being the

The Amistad Research Center is honored to house the personal papers of Mr. Battiste and Ms. Williams and thanks them for allowing the Center to make both collections available to researchers worldwide.

Posted by Christopher Harter

(Images from the Harold R. Battiste Papers and the Camilla Williams Papers. May not be reproduced without permission.)

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